Monday, May 09, 2016

Preparing the Garden for Summer Weather

It has been lovely lately here in Gilbert. We have actually had a spring instead of jumping straight from winter to summer, as we sometimes do. We've had weather in the 70s and 80s for quite a while, and for the past few days, we've even had rain.

Storm's a comin'

This is all highly unusual for our neck of the woods, but not surprisingly, it isn't destined to last. A quick look at tells me that this will all end soon.

TGIF? Hmm. Maybe not. 

So it's time to get the garden ready for summer weather. With that in mind, here are a few things to think about:

As things get hotter, your plants will need more water. For instance, I am currently using drip irrigation to water half of my vegetable garden for 30 minutes every other day. Starting around Wednesday or Thursday, I'll bump that up to a daily routine. The other half is watered with ollas. I'm sure I'll need to refill those more often.

Keep in mind that you should water early in the morning or late in the evening to reduce water evaporation. Also, if you water midday when things are really hot, you can cook the roots of your plants. You don't want to precook your vegis!

Another summer staple in my vegi garden is hay. Not only does it reduce water evaporation, it helps cool the ground around the base of plants. The only thing to remember is that you want to wait until plants have gotten big enough that they can see over the top of the hay. You don't want them getting lost in there.

And you thought nests were just for birds.

Not all plants need shade in summer--in fact, some thrive in the full summer sun (more about that in a minute). However, for sane plants that don't like the full glare of the 115 degree Arizona heat beating down on them all summer long, a little shade is in order.

If you plan well, one of the best ways to accomplish this is by using one plant to shade another. For instance, most sunflowers are tall and wide and can shade other plants. Okra is another that can provide great shade throughout the summer. Some people even plant vegis underneath their trees to provide them shade. (If you want to see some beautiful examples of this, I recommend visiting Singh Farms in Scottsdale.)

However, if you haven't planned quite that well, you could construct a shade structure instead of using a natural one. My husband and I are in the middle of doing exactly that right now. I successfully started tomatoes from seed for the first time this year, but got them started too late. They are doing beautifully, so I'm not quite ready to give up on them. So I'm going to try to baby them with water, mulch and a shade structure to see if I can help them survive through the summer. (I'll post more details once the structure is finished.)

What do you think? Am I going overboard for a few tomato plants? 

Lastly, if you have potted plants outside, you can move them to a more shady spot. (I generally move mine under my office window on the patio.)

Preparing for summer is not all hunkering down and doing your best to prepare for the worst. Some plants actually like the heat. (Weirdos.) Which means that if you want, your summer garden could be your most productive garden. If you haven't already, now's the time to plant black-eyed peas, basil, yardlong beans, armenian cucumbers, eggplant, jicama, melons, okra, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, and sweet potatoes.

I actually planted armenian cucumbers, melons, and okra a few weeks back, and they're just holding back, waiting for the weather to get interesting.

Meh. I can't be bothered to grow yet. Wake me up when it's hot. 

Once the mercury rises above 100, they will really take off. The only catch is, you'll have to go outside in the heat to pick all those vegis that they will produce.

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